Fort Worth establishes task force focused on business recovery, future

John Goff at Fort Worth Now announcement. Mayor Betsy Price at right.

Robert Francis

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price is well known for her loud “Howdy,” hugging and straightforward manner.

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So it was little surprise that when Tesla founder Elon Musk voiced displeasure with the state of California as he worked to reopen his manufacturing plants there that Price was quick to post a photo of herself next to a Tesla sign on Twitter.

“Hey @elonmusk Cali is so yesterday – #FortWorth is NOW. We have more available land than any other major city in #Texas. Our industry leading @HillwoodDevelop mobility and innovation zone was a leader at this year’s @CES,” Price said in the tweet.

That cheeky approach might have happened anyway but coming on the high boot heels of Fort Worth establishing a task force focused immediately on restoring local businesses impacted by the pandemic and strategically targeting growth sectors for the future, the move could easily be seen as a sign of a new attitude.

The new task force, called Fort Worth Now, is certainly not shying away from a fight.

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Led by two Fort Worth business giants with plenty of swagger: JPMorgan Chase’s Elaine Agather and business leader John Goff.

“This is a public-private partnership spearheaded for the next year of economic recovery and growth initiative,” said Price during the May 7 announcement at the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center. “As COVID-19 has wrecked havoc on businesses, our way of life, and our economy, Fort Worth Now will lead a strategic effort to not only recover Fort Worth businesses, but to take Fort Worth to new economic heights.”

Price said that over the next year, Fort Worth will grow jobs, opportunities and grow “the new corporate community network.”

While everyone at the announcement wore masks and received quick temperature checks, the mood had enough positive energy to fill a 10-gallon hat. Sorry COVID-19, you can’t keep a city founded on pioneer spirit down, apparently.

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“To the businesses that have been the backbone of the Fort Worth’s economy, we’re going to help you get back on your feet, but we’re not stopping there,” she said. “We want Fort Worth to enter a new era of economic growth and prosperity that will benefit the entire city, not just one industry, not just our traditional industry, not any one neighborhood or any one group of citizens, but it will advance equitably all of Fort Worth, in the coming days. And you have already heard many cities talk about their rebuilding efforts, but Fort Worth is not your average city. We’re trailblazers and we’re pioneers and always have been.

“We’re building a strong industry of public-private partnerships that has shaped this city we love. Fort worth is known for using public-private partnerships, bringing together Fort Worth’s brightest minds and sharpest industry leaders to envision and engineer our future and our children’s future,” she said. ‘

In addition to Agather and Goff, additional members of an advisory board for Fort Worth Now will be announced soon.

Agather is chairman of the Dallas Region for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and also serves as South and Midwest Region Head and Managing Director of J.P. Morgan Private Bank as well as a member of the advisory board of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall Of Fame and has been a fixture at the grand entry at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo since 1992.

Goff is a private investor based in Fort Worth who invests in a variety of industries, both public and private, through his family office, Goff Capital, and in real estate through Crescent Real Estate, where he serves as chairman. Goff co-founded Crescent Real Estate with Richard Rainwater in the early 1990’s.

“We have an important task first, which is to identify key members to add to this task force,” Goff said. “It’s going to be very diverse, because we need to make sure we encompass all parts of the business community in Fort Worth. We have many, I think, well over 30,000 small businesses and they come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, and we need to make sure that all are fairly represented in this process.”

After the city emerges from the economic slowdown related to the pandemic, Goff said the group will “focus on longer-term initiatives that can really set the city apart.”
“We need to look at what are the strengths of Fort Worth, what are our weaknesses? We need to address those weaknesses. We need to play upon the strengths. We need to capitalize on those, and we need to grow the city back probably in new dimensions. And those are dimensions that we’re going to identify and work with community leaders to take advantage of. That’s the longer-term issue,” he said.

Agather echoed Goff’s ideas.

“Now is the time to help. Now is the time for all of us to use all of our skill sets, everything we’re good at, to help small businesses, big businesses. I have 40 years of trying to grow businesses and now’s the time to grow,” Agather said.

The initial 12-month effort will include one dedicated staff member, who will be announced later this month, according to the city.  

During the announcement, Goff said he and his wife, Cami, will establish a $100,000 matching grant to help fund Fort Worth Now.

Price said Fort Worth Now will not conflict with other economic development efforts and the initiative has the support of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and the city’s own economic development department.

“We view this as way to supplement their efforts,” she said.

Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce President Brandom Gengelbach said the chamber supports the plan.

“We look forward to our city leaders and the business community working collaboratively to help recover and grow the economy of Fort Worth,” he said. “We appreciate the mayor’s and co-chairs’ leadership in this  effort and believe this will be able to take economic development in Fort Worth to a level far above anything we have been able to do before.”

Visit Fort Worth President and CEO Bob Jameson also voiced support for the city initiative.

“Public-private partnerships like this have shaped our community, including many of the attractions and developments that have contributed to our growth in tourism in recent years,” he said. “Visit Fort Worth looks forward to supporting this effort. Restoring our visitor economy will be important to creating jobs and driving much-needed tax revenue.”